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The October update – my struggle with anxiety and mood swings

From next Sunday onwards, on Sundays, I’m going to be posting a recovery-focussed post. Today though, I thought I’d write an update post to highlight where I’m at:

  1. Because I need to express in words what’s going on and,
  2. Because you will begin to understand why I’m so recovery-focussed on future Sundays. (It’s not because I believe that I have all of the answers but, if I find any, I want to share them with others facing similar issues).

This last week and a half has been awful mood-wise. As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know, as well as a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, I’m also physically disabled (Ankylosing Spondylitis – a form of inflammatory arthritis).

I’m actually in the process of starting up a blog about my life with AS as I’d like Brokenglassshimmers to be about mental illness and mental health recovery, as well as the issues that those of us with mental illness face. There is a reason for me mentioning my AS in this post, as you will see shortly…

I had an appointment with the rheumatologist almost 2 weeks ago. Because of the level of physical pain and stiffness I was struggling with (which was, in turn, bringing me down mentally), he reluctantly, as he knew about my mental health diagnosis, prescribed steroids.

It took a lot of persuasion from me, and a promise that at the first sign of any problems, I would stop them. I felt confident as I’d previously had steroids around a year ago and, looking back with rose-tinted-specs, thought that I coped ok with them.

Instead they have caused me nothing but mental health problems. My anxiety and panic attacks are back with a vengeance, so whereas before I was hoping to wean myself off Diazepam, I’m back to taking the full, prescribed dose.

My sleeping is also all over the place, if I wake in the night I struggle to get back to sleep. I am back to having really severe mood swings, I am extremely over-sensitive and paranoid. Plus my social anxiety is back, so I’m literally shaking with fear about the thought of attending the creative writing group that I began before the steroids.

Why don’t I stop them? You may be thinking. I actually did, a week ago, and I’m still experiencing symptoms, although in total, I was only on them for a few days.

I veer from drained but unable to sleep, to buzzing with ideas. Internally I’m exhausted from the anxiety and lack of sleep and, to top it off, because I’m no longer on the steroids, there is nothing to stop the really bad flare-up that I’m having, of my AS.

So I’m worse than back where I started from. I feel lonely and isolated, but terrified of people. I go from wanting to hibernate to buzzing with ideas.

Sometimes I feel like a fraud for writing about mental health recovery when I haven’t ‘recovered’ myself, but the reason I do is because I’m so desperate for answers, a way to stop the torment that I’m in, and a flicker of hope that things can get better.

What do you think about recovery-focussed posts? Do you find them helpful? I can be contacted in the comments section below or on Twitter @spursbythebeach. Look forward to hearing from you!

Safety in self-knowledge – part 3

This is the last in a 3-part series I’ve written this week about safety in self-knowledge. If you would like to read the previous posts then the link to the first post is here: http://brokenglassshimmers.org/2015/10/22/safety-in-self-knowledge-part-1/ and you will also find the second post on the site (I’m scheduling posts ahead of time so I don’t have a link yet. I will update Twitter and Facebook when I do).

How do I figure out my own ‘baseline’ ? 

First of all, think about who you are when you are being completely honest with yourself. That could mean keeping a diary, listening to music, considering your hobbies – even those that you are not following right at this moment.

Who can help?

In your heart of hearts you will probably know best, especially when well. But, if you would like some input, choose wisely. Ideally people you have known for sometime, who either, you are in a give and take, or professional relationship with. Examples could be your best friend who has known you for many years, or a social worker who sees you on a regular basis. These are just examples though.

A tale of two nights in crisis

A few months ago, I didn’t even begin to recognise who I was anymore. A number of emotionally disturbing events occurred and i launched, blindly, into a downward spiral that only recently did I begin to see a way out of. I attempted suicide, pushed away those I love, and made countless other mistakes. Recently though, I had a different experience.

I was in crisis again, ready to follow the same old pattern of self-destruct, but I actually trusted my instincts. I sought help at a slightly earlier stage and, although still distressed, listened to trustworthy advice, and managed to stay safe.

I want to make this very clear. These few good nights do not make me a pro at dealing with mental illness. If you are feeling unsafe, if something I have said has resonated with you, then contact someone safe. Whether it’s a helpline such as the Samaritans, a local mental health team, a doctor or a loved one who has your best interests at heart.

My battle is just beginning. There will be difficult days and less difficult days, but what helps on all of these days are 3 things:

  1. Seeking safety.
  2. Knowing yourself.
  3. Holding on tightly to even the smallest shred of hope that you can find.

I really hope that this series helps. If you’ve read to the end, thank you for sticking with me and I’d love to hear what you think, either in the comments section below, or, for an even faster response usually, my Twitter account @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Safety in self-knowledge – part 2

What is a ‘baseline’? 

You may be wondering what a ‘baseline’ means for you. Well, it’s a personal and individual thing for everyone as each person’s baseline will be unique and individual to them. But to perhaps give you a starting point I will share my own wellness ‘baseline’, (hope it helps!).

  1. For a start, I’m extremely mentally fast and talkative, even when well. It’s just a case of striking the balance between this and unhealthy, racing, thoughts.
  2. I’m productive. You may have noticed that my productiveness peaks and troughs where my blogging is concerned, meaning that I can be unreliable when unwell. The same is true of many areas of my life.
  3. I’m a supportive partner/family member and friend. For example, due to not being well, I ended a serious relationship, have caused family and friends a lot of pain and misery and have only just met my niece, who was born earlier this year.

It breaks my heart when I’m well, the destruction I can cause when I don’t recognise the difference between me and the illness. At the moment, people who I love deeply, think that I don’t care about them, when actually the opposite is true.

Those without a mental illness may think that I’m making excuses, but I’m heartbroken by poorly made decisions.

4. I have certain hobbies and interests that I keep up-to-date with when I’m well too. These include creative writing, blogging, scrapbooking/cardmaking, reading and spending time on social media, especially Twitter.

Before I got ill most recently, I had applied and received an unconditional offer to study the second year of a creative writing degree. I was writing a lot, even entering competitions, and reading widely. I was starting to feel really excited about the future.

Since I got ill, my concentration has been impaired. I’ve become a recluse, including from social media and my blogs, I have had to defer my university place, and it is only this week that I’ve been able to produce writing of any kind (probably why there’s such an outpouring now).

My usual qualities when well are that I am reliable, safe. I have good, or at least OK, awareness of myself, and those around me. I’m usually the cautious one of my friends, one of the first to perceive risks. In fact I can be a bit of a nag about staying safe.

When I’m ill, I often surround myself with the wrong people, and isolate myself from those that I should be trusting. Even those who have never done this, will know that no-one in their right mind pushes away the people that they love, to surround themselves with bad influences.

If any of this sets off alarm bells, either about yourself or someone else, then please seek help or encourage them to seek help. Whether it’s a helpline, doctor or social services, please reach out if you are acting out of character, especially if it is putting you at risk.

If you would like to add your thoughts about this post, please feel free to comment below, search for the Brokenglassshimmers Facebook page, or add me on Twitter @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

Please drop by tomorrow for the last in this 3-part series on safety in self-knowledge. If you missed the first part then the link is here : http://brokenglassshimmers.org/2015/10/22/safety-in-self-knowledge-part-1/

Safety in self-knowledge part 1

Hypocritical?

‘Safety in self-knowledge’ may seem like a strange title for a blog post, so perhaps a bit of an explanation is needed. I’m writing about this subject feeling like a bit of a hypocrite because:

  1. I definitely DO NOT have it all figured out, and
  2. If I hadn’t had to learn this lesson the hard way then I wouldn’t even be writing this post today.

So obvious when it’s too late

Things are always so much easier to figure out the hard way (if that makes any sense?) . What I mean to say is that we’re often so unwilling to trust our own instincts/the people closest to us, especially if it means swallowing our pride and admitting that we are in the wrong.

I have been through so many scrapes and setbacks as a result of not being aware enough of my mental illness and the impact that it has on me, but actually, I’ve probably put myself in worse situations because I  didn’t know myself better. And by myself I mean Caroline without mental ill health, as well as with it.

In recent months I have put myself on the line more than I have throughout the past ten years. In fact, probably for far longer than the past few months. This lack of knowledge about who I am and what I want, almost cost me the love of my life, as well as actually costing me this year’s place at university, a mental breakdown, and a great deal of danger.

Thankfully I came to my senses with a real crash to earth and eventually asked for help from the right people, was honest with myself and others, and put steps in place to hopefully keep myself a lot safer in future.

Recently I returned to a handout that I was asked to fill in by Occupational Therapy before I left hospital recently. One of the questions really jumped out at me. It was all about knowing my ‘baseline’, basically what I am like when I am well and I, (a bit slowly) recognised that if I know inside-out the person who I am when I am well, I’m less likely to get as ill (because I will be quicker to spot when I am not well), as well as being less willing in future to allow others to impact me as negatively as they have in recent months.

This post is part of a three-part-series with the next two posts to follow in the next few days explaining more about what a ‘baseline’ is and how to figure out your own baseline. I hope you find them useful and I’d love to hear what you think, either in the comments section below or, for an even faster response usually, my Twitter @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

If you need more intensive support then please contact someone, whether it’s your GP, local mental health team, or the Samaritans. Their number in the UK is 08457 90 90 90 or in the Republic of Ireland 116 123. If you would like me to include a helpline from further afield then please contact me. I’m in the process of revamping the blogs (I also blog on fashion, beauty and lifestyle at lifelovesandlipgloss.wordpress.com) and I am hoping to include a useful contacts section in the new website. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to start posting again and thank you to my loyal readers for sticking with me and welcome to any new readers! Look forward to hearing from you 🙂

Life after a crisis

It’s been a while since I last posted. I have been on a long road of self-hatred and destruction. Thankfully with a mixture of effective and non-effective support, I have come out the other side stronger, and more determined, than I’ve probably ever been.

The truth is that I came dangerously close to not being here. It took that very near miss to make me learn a few lessons about my life, as it is, and as I want it to be.

I decided that although I have yet to see improvements from therapy, that it is worth persisting with, if there is a chance that I could learn to stop the past repeating itself. So I’ve kept going, been fully involved in trying to improve myself and started to think about what I really want from life.

I made the decision that I have so much that I still want to achieve with my life, and this time when I was discharged from the crisis (Home Treatment Team), instead of seeing it as a threat to my well-being, I saw it as an opportunity.

What has helped has been being told by my care-managers that I can’t do what I want to do, what I dream of doing. One of my best qualities is stubborn determination and if I’m told that I can’t do something, often I will work even harder to prove that I can.

Another thing that has helped is better pain management, this has meant more energy and ability to focus on the things that I enjoy. It’s not a drastic change and I still have to live with some pain, but it’s at a more manageable level than it was.

Another lesson that I learnt was that I need to become more self-reliant. Instead of looking up to others and relying on them to help me when I’m in a dark place, I need to figure out what I can do to help myself, and, if that fails, then figure out who are the best people to approach for help.

I learnt that I need to be more self-aware of when I’m on a path of self-destruct/close to causing myself harm, and what to do to nip it in the bud before things get to the point where I make stupid, life-affecting choices.

I have also started trying new things as a way of changing the rut that I’ve been in for far too long. I’ve returned to writing, I’m now back to blogging (which will probably be a more gradual process) and I’m preparing to finally return to uni (my second year) in September. I will be studying creative writing and I’m really excited at the prospect.

I just wanted to say that I appreciate your patience and encouragement towards me throughout what has been an extremely difficult time, and hope that eventually I can prove that you were right to have faith in me. I’m sorry for the mistakes that I’ve made and just wanted you all to know that if you are struggling with difficult feelings and mental illness, you are never alone. Please contact an organisation like the Samaritans (who are the reason, along with medical professionals, that  I am still alive). And please try to never give up on yourselves and what  you are capable of because even if you doubt what you are capable of – I believe in you!

If you’d like to continue the conversation please comment below or tweet me @spursbythebeach .

Weekly special: Life as a mental health service user

I was depressed from childhood, self-harming in my teens. From the age of seventeen, I have been in and out of therapy. Age 21 I was given my first of a few diagnoses. I had Bipolar disorder and began seeing an amazing psychiatrist as an outpatient. I define him as amazing because he actually believed that he could make me better, and he never gave up hope that he would.

After my marriage broke down in traumatic circumstances, I moved to a different area and was dealt with by a different mental health team, including a Home Treatment Team. Their psychiatrist, based on my self-harming behaviour, decided that I had Borderline Personality disorder.

At first I fought against this diagnosis, there was nothing wrong with my personality! But the more I researched the condition, the more I identified with it.

Since then I have spent time having my care managed by the Community Mental Health Teams in a few areas. I have paid for private help out of my benefits, and I have been a voluntary patient in an NHS psychiatric hospital

I know that there are many others who have experiences with similarities to mine and differences that should also be discussed.

Before doing this week-long special into life as a mental health service user, I thought about the kind of posts I would have found useful/supportive throughout my mental health journey.

I am keen to hear from others who have ideas for other posts/interviews I could do, and I can be flexible in extending this week long special into a longer running or more regular theme on Brokenglassshimmers. I am completely open-minded about where my initial ideas will take me.

These are:

  • Things to remember before a meeting with your Community Mental Health Team care manager.
  • How to get help from a UK Community Mental Health Team -the obstacles that can be stacked against you and how to face them.
  • Who to approach in a crisis – is it a postcode lottery?
  • Things I wish I’d known before my psych ward stay.
  • Things I wish I’d known before being discharged from the psych ward.
  • Care in the community – different experiences of therapy.
  • The future of mental health services
  • Fighting for mental health care

If you have any comments or suggestions about these topics and/or would like to get involved then please comment below or tweet me @spursbythebeach

How I want my life to feel

Recently in Cognitive Analytical Therapy, my psychologist got me to fill out a sheet, which got me to consider how distorted my thinking and feeling is, as well as how I would actually like my life to feel.

1. I would like to be more open with people, especially my partner. I tend to bottle things up, especially as many, including my partner, struggle to understand my battle with physical and mental health problems.

People tend to be either completely ignorant, or so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they say nothing, or avoid me. My partner is one of the few who really worries about what these problems mean for me, he sees it as a real possibility that he could lose me as a result of these difficulties, especially my mental health, and so he fears it. He emotionally blackmails me, in an attempt to keep me safe, as though that’s the opposite of what I want. I love him and my friends dearly, but sometimes I wish people would ask more questions, instead of just making assumptions.

It’s also hard when friends make plans that don’t take into account my disabilities. It’s nice that they see me as ‘one of them’ , ‘normal’ , but the fact is that I am different and I would love it if more often that difference was embraced, rather than forgotten. Especially as it’s a difference that I have to live with every day of my life.

2. I would like to feel less angry and more forgiving about my past with my family. I hold onto so much from the past and it is time that I started to let go. To do this I need to continue engaging with therapy and writing.

What makes me angry? That my family hardly ever call, that I always have to call them, that even Skype is too much of an effort for my computer literate sister, that my niece will probably grow up not knowing me as her aunt, that I am still ,and probably always will be, the black sheep of the family, That even when I was in hospital there were hardly any phone calls, and none of them contacted, or visited the hospital. Finally without the disruption of my childhood home life, I may have been more successful in my education.

Looking at it differently though, their lack of support has made me more independent, and even if I did have an amazing education behind me, my disabilities would probably still get in the way of me achieving, and my family are  not responsible for my disabilities.

3. I would like to feel happier. I want to finally win my long-running battle with depression. To do this I need to spend more of my days doing the things that make me happy as well as facing up to my worries.

The things that make me happy include blogging, creative writing, scrapbooking and being creative. The things that worry me are debts, health problems and my partner’s parole. As well as facing up to these problems I need to find time to have some fun.

4. I would like to feel less afraid of criticism, as I feel that this holds me back a great deal. To do this I need to continue to fight back by blogging, even if not everybody likes me. Instead of attempting to be a people pleaser, I need to focus on being honest, even if people don’t want to hear it.

5. I would like to feel more confident to follow my dreams, without constantly worrying about the barriers that I need to overcome to achieve them. To do this I need help to overcome these barriers, like my mobility problems, pain and fatigue. If, at my next appointment with the rheumatologist, he is still unwilling to do a great deal to help me, I will be finally requesting a second opinion.

6. As I mentioned before, I want to be less of a people pleaser, as this causes me to hideaway a great deal. I want to be less worried about how people will react if I just be myself. To do that I need to actually start being myself.

One example is my drinking, I usually only drink when I want to fit in, but I need to recognise that if I am going to show my real self, then masking it with booze every time I’m with friends, will not help me. On top of that, for health reasons, I shouldn’t be drinking anyway.

7. I would like to feel less anxious as I feel that this would help me to become more independent and less socially isolated.

A big part of me facing up to this is the possibility of me getting a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair through the Motability scheme. The thought of being more self-reliant makes me feel very nervous and excited. It would be great to get involved in community courses and activities and just to get some fresh air. Does anyone else have a Motability vehicle?

8. I would like to have better self-esteem, instead of constantly putting myself down. I’d like to start believing in myself. I could start this by praising myself for the things that I do well – however small, from getting more organised to posting on my blog.

9. I would like to feel more stable and in control of my mind. The only way I feel that I can do this is by persisting with medication and engaging with my care team. This includes attending and engaging with therapy sessions as well as my social worker and Community Psychiatric Nurse.

My dream to be confident, happy, organised and independent, seems so far away, but with the right steps I may be able to realise that dream sooner than I think.

Does anyone have any goals about how they would like to feel? What steps are you going to take to achieve them? Feel free to comment below or tweet @spursbythebeach .

A is for anger

At least a few times a week I have decided to challenge myself, by giving myself an alphabetical theme to blog on. Each theme will be related to living with mental illness/ physical disability. I am also going to do the same challenge on my FBL blog Lifelovesandlipgloss.wordpress.com , although often using different topics for the different blogs.

I chose to write about anger first, because it is something that I struggle with a great deal.

Expressed anger

My experience of anger as a child, my parent’s violence and emotional abuse, taught me how much expressed anger can hurt others, so I tend to BOTTLE IT UP.

Triggers

My anger is mainly triggered by memories from the past which leave me feeling POWERLESS and UNABLE TO ESCAPE, stress which also leaves me feeling BACKED INTO A CORNER as well as UNABLE TO COPE, and being unable to cope leads to a great deal of FRUSTRATION, which makes me want to EXPLODE.

Turning it inwards

Instead of expressing my anger and frustration in a healthy way, I turn it inwards and attack myself. At first it starts off as a mental attack. INSULTS, ABUSE, SELF-HATRED. The things my parents and the bullies at school used to say to me, I say to myself: Ugly, fat, useless, pathetic, unwanted, better off dead.

The negative self-talk can only go on for so long before the anger bubbles over, like I’m in some kind of pressure valve, and I end up wanting to act on the negative feelings I hold towards myself, by physically causing myself pain, also known as SELF-HARMING.

Searching for a new anger-management strategy

At the moment though, I’m desperate not to follow the old negative patterns. I feel STUCK, TRAPPED. I know that I will lose my partner if I end up self-harming or attempting suicide again, and, if I do, I am also likely to end up back on the PSYCH WARD.

Alternatives

I’m trying so hard to change things. Firstly, I try to FILL MY DAY so I don’t have too much time to dwell on things. I try to do things that I know will RELIEVE MY TENSION, from watching a favourite TV show, to colouring in or other creative-type stuff. Blogging also really helps. It helps me to EXPRESS MYSELF in a CONSTRUCTIVE way and to feel LESS ALONE, when I realise that others are struggling with similar issues.

Hopes for the future

My hopes for the future are that my feelings of anger will lessen and I will FEEL MORE IN CONTROL of my anger,that I will learn to express it in a healthy way, that doesn’t leave me with feelings of REGRET after yet another explosion.

Do you struggle with anger? What ways have you found to manage it? What helps you to cope better with it? Either comment below or Tweet me @spursbythebeach.

When you feel like hiding from the world

Kitty feels like hiding from the world

Kitty feels like hiding from the world

For far too much of my life, I’ve felt like hiding from the world. It started when I was a child. I was ashamed of the way I looked, afraid of the bullies, worried my parents would embarrass me/kick off when they were drunk.

Now I’m almost 30 and not a lot has changed. This time it’s social anxiety, fear of being judged for my disabilities and severe depression, in which I feel like being around people just makes me, and them, worse.

There are things I’d like to do: Blogging meet-ups, physiotherapy groups, day centres, book clubs. Even when I was thinking about starting university the anxiety about being around hundreds of people during lectures, freaking out about fresher’s week and how I was going to go it alone as a disabled person and make friends, was tearing me apart.

I’d love to have another chance at education but at the moment my anxiety and depression are so bad that I’m constantly changing my mind about whether or not I should give it a try, because I don’t feel like I’m good enough. I’m not living, I’m existing.

I want to be a journalist and was given the opportunity to blog for my local newspaper but I’ve bottled out of doing it more than one time because I’m worried I’ll make a fool of myself. I know that sounds strange coming from a mental health blogger, but I’m ashamed to admit that negative feedback terrifies me. It causes me to beat myself up and is the reason I’ve spent too long hiding away or not doing the things that I love.

I want to change and I know that the only way that I can do that is with one small step at a time. I’ve started Slimming World and trying to wear make up more often so that I can be more physically confident. Mentally, is another matter entirely. I’m so scared of getting hurt or messing up. I’ve just started seeing a psychologist and I’m really hoping that it makes a difference as I’m so tired of being like this.

Being honest about how I feel, especially on here, helps a lot. The support I’ve received from Brokenglassshimmers’ followers, has meant so much.

I’m thinking about branching out with the blog too and doing an email newsletter for followers to chart my progress, what works/what doesn’t, perhaps even interview some of you too if you’re interested. If you would like to receive something like this then please let me know. I’m available on here as well as on Twitter @spursbythebeach .

52 weeks of gratitude – week 1 – Why start this challenge?

Thank you

Thank you

Recently, in fact for quite some time now, I’ve been feeling negative. I’ve been letting my health issues bring me down and leave me feeling negative and frustrated.

I spotted the 52 weeks of gratitude challenge on Pinterest (apologies I can’t remember who started it off), but I thought that this would be perfect for me.

Instead of focussing on the negatives all the time, the things I can’t do, I’m going to spend more time being thankful. I’m going to start this off with ‘Thankful Thursdays ‘. Every Thursday I am going to take part in this weekly gratitude challenge, helping me to look over the week with more positivity and start the weekend with some optimism.

The main reason that I am doing this challenge though, is because I know what happens when I get caught up in a negative thought cycle: I stop doing the things that I love, for example blogging, I isolate myself, I start thinking negatively towards myself and before I know it, I’m having thoughts about/actively trying to harm myself.

I want so badly, to break this negative thoughts cycle, and this seems like a great way to do that, by focussing on the positives in my life.

If you would like to join me with this challenge, please feel free to comment with your links/thoughts below, or Tweet @spursbythebeach . I hope that this can be useful for all of us.

The Sea Cave

Seeking buried treasure

kelzbelzphotography

My journey - The good, bad and the ugly

Finding Purpose

Insights on thriving in the modern world

Big Red Carpet Nursing

Fun & Progress!

Wandering Thru The Wilderness

Moments to find myself

And Just a Touch of Crazy

Confessions of a Bipolar Girl

srstanyon

This blog is my efforts to end stigma around mental illness and for me to explore my diagnoses in writing. My wish is to make people aware how common mental illness is and that being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn't mean your life is worthless.

Soul Sincerity

Heartfelt Reflection For A Beautiful Life